In a large urban community like Chicago, it’s easy to miss the nature for the skyscrapers. Then there are the notorious winters, when only the most courageous will don running gear and brave the frigid outdoors. When summer comes, it’s another matter altogether. The city greens up, people pour into the streets for festivals celebrating every nationality and neighborhood, and those who have been cooped up in indoor gyms all winter begin looking for the summer pleasure that is exercising outdoors.
While the lakefront is a great destination for cyclists from spring to fall, in summer, biking turns high gear. To break that same old monotony of routes, however, two groups in Chicago are great at organizing and blazing new urban trails in the city. The first is LATE (which means “long after twilight ends”).Cyclists meet up at Buckingham Fountain and take a 25-mile ride through downtown and the neighborhoods beginning after 11 pm, with snacks along the ride and T-shirts for all those who pre-register for rides. Helmets are required, and an all-you-can-eat breakfast will re-fuel you after the ride See LATE’s website at www.lateride.org for more details of times and prices.
The other group organizing 25-mile city bike rides is the Chicago History Museum, and these rides are unique in that they follow some of the historically important areas of the 1893 World’s Fair, with information on some of the people of the era, too. Exercise and a history lesson all at the same time. These rides are held throughout the summer beginning at 9:30 am on select dates.
Kayaking the Chicago River
While many Chicagoans take advantage of Lake Michigan for boating, fishing, and party cruising, enjoying the water on a more human level can be found by kayaking the Chicago River. Not only is the river dotted with some of the most impressive architecture the city offers, it also provides calmer waters for beginners to “get their paddles wet.” This program, too, is sponsored by the Chicago History Museum.
No time for full-fledged kayaking? How about a quick paddle boat ride in Lincoln Park Zoo. Open all summer long, it’s fun for all ages.
Working Out in Millennium Park
One of the best ways to get some exercise on a Saturday morning is to head over to the Great Lawn of Millennium Park for a free 45-minute workout. Although you have to arrive early (7 am), the benefit is that you avoid the summer heat. The best thing about this program, however, is the sheer diversity of exercise you will encounter. From yoga to tai chi, from Pilates to dance, this is a great way to experiment with different exercise experiences before you sign up for classes at your gym over the winter. Aerobic dance classes cover a variety of styles as well, from Hip Hop to Polynesian to Latin dance. And you can’t beat the price!
No matter what type of exercise you enjoy or even if you just want to try some new forms out, there are plenty of options in Chicago. From self-directed runs along the lakefront to paddling the local waters for the first time, the city opens up its arms and welcomes a new, healthier you.
Chicago History Museum, www.chicagohistory,org